By Koketso Mamabolo
With unemployment surging, it’s important to approach the job market knowing what skills are most in-demand, what they involve and the places where you can study them. Here are three of the top science, technology, engineering and mathematics fields to study, with some paths one can take, as well as the centres of learning where you can study them.
Computer science breaks into different branches, one of them is software development, which is fundamental, and one the most in-demand skills in South Africa. It involves producing, designing, implementing and maintaining software. Software is the set of commands which give a computer direction. It can be broken down into three types: system software, programming software and application software.
Software engineers use principles developed in engineering to solve problems. To solve these problems they create software and systems. As with the other engineering disciplines, software engineering is practical. They have to deal with the real world, like civil engineers who work with buildings and roads.
There are two types of software engineers, those who work with applications and then those who work with systems. Application engineers have the responsibility of putting together applications with the end-user in mind. They drive the process, all the way from conceptualising and building the application, to testing, installing and maintaining it.
System engineers manage an organisation’s computer systems. One of their roles is setting up the network which links the organisation’s computers.
Places to study:
Centre for Software Engineering (CENSE) – UNISA
Academy of Computer Science and Software Engineering – UJ
Tel: +27 (0) 11 559 2967
Joburg Centre for Software Engineering – Wits University
Tel: +27 (0) 11 717 6390
Sometimes called system architects, system analysts study an organisation’s IT systems in order to find ways to improve them. Their responsibility is creating IT solutions which they implement in order to increase productivity and improve an organisation’s efficiency.
The simple way to put it is that they are problem-solvers. They take the end-users experience, their needs and wants, and find technical solutions for issues that need to be resolved. System analysts are involved at every point in the development process, working with everyone along the way, from the clients using the platforms, to the programmers and developers who create them.
Places to study:
Cape Peninsula University of Technology (CPUT)
Tel: +27 (0) 21 959 6767
Tel: +27 (0) 21 417 6700
Information Technology (IT) essentially involves using technological solutions to solve an organisation’s problems, from the simple and small, to the big and complex.
IT has three branches: governance, operations and hardware & infrastructure.
IT governance encompasses the procedures and policies which ensure efficiency and cater to the requirements of the organisation. IT operations involve the day-to-day aspects, the role most people think of when IT is mentioned. Operations include maintenance, technical support, testing and managing the organisation’s devices. Hardware and infrastructure is where the machines come in. IT professionals responsible for infrastructure deal with the physical components – the computers, laptops, routers, telephones and servers which an organisation uses.
Computer Network Architect
As with buildings and infrastructure, an architect needs to design what the engineer builds. Computer network architects work closely with systems engineers to design an organisation’s data communication networks, which include Local Area Networks (LAN), Wide Area Networks (WAN) and intranets.
Places to study
Tel: 0860 326 354
Central University of Technology
Tel: +27 (0) 51 507 3911 (Bloemfontein campus)
+27 (0) 57 910 3500 (Welkom campus)
A network administrator manages an organisation’s computer networks, which the network architect designs and the system engineer builds. Their role involves troubleshooting, network maintenance and securing the network. In smaller organisations the role can be combined with that of a system administrator. Systems administrators focus on the servers and computer systems, while network administrators work specifically with matters relating to the network and the equipment it is made of, this can include routing and IP addresses.
Places to study
Academic Institute of Excellence
Tel: Johannesburg – +27 (0) 11 262 5115
Cape Town – +27 (0) 21 000 0462
College of Cape Town
Tel: +27 (0) 21 404 6700
The Engineering Council of South Africa (ECSA) defines engineering as “…the practice of science, engineering science and technology concerned with the solution of problems of economic importance and those essential to the progress of society.” ECSA goes on to list some of the responsibilities that engineers generally have, including “designing materials, components, systems or processes” and “planning the capacity and location of infrastructure.
Agricultural engineers are also known as natural resource engineers. They provide the engineering expertise required in production, processing and the distribution of agricultural products and consider the sustainability of the supply chain and its impact on the environment. The role of an agricultural engineer can encompass the designing of equipment, buildings and dams.
Places to study
ARC Institute for Agricultural Engineering
Tel: +27 (0) 12 842 4017
University of Limpopo Agricultural Engineering Department
Tel: +27 (0) 15 268 2599
Civil Engineering Technologist
Research is a significant part of civil engineering. In order to have all the required data, civil engineers require researchers who can go on-site and gather information which the civil engineer can use to inform their processes. The researchers who work closely with the engineers are called civil engineering technologists. Not only do they collect the data but they also interpret it to offer advice to the engineer and then implement the required systems for safety, examination, maintenance and repair of current and past projects.
Places to study
Vaal University of Technology (VUT)
Tel: +27 (0) 16 950 9336
Tshwane University of Technology (TUT)
Tel: 086 110 2421
Engineering Council of South Africa